Sunday, March 16, 2014

Antiguan Arrival

A First Beer - Vacation's Officially Under Way

Suffice it to say that there are no direct flights from Vancouver to Antigua. I'm not blessed with the ability to sleep on planes; so, by the time we'd finished off our red eye to Toronto and arrived at our Caribbean destination, we were more inclined to take a nap than hit the beach. That wasn't really an option though.

We'd arrived to an empty villa. The other travelling Dinner Club members had landed the day before us and our roomies, Axel and English Doc, were out touring with Lady Di and She Who Must Be Obeyed. Our resident hosts, Jeaux and Matinder were playing tour guide to some other friends of their's who'd sailed into port on one of the ubiquitous cruise ships. So, Boo and I threw our duty free Gin into the freezer and decided to take in a bit of a tour of Jolly Beach and the resort environs.

Antigua isn't a particularly large island. One of the Leeward Islands and found on the Eastern end of the Caribbean, its circumference is roughly 87 km and the population is only around 80,000. It does, however, boast the fact that it has 364 beaches - basically a different beach for every day of the year. We took a stroll on one of the beaches embracing Jolly Harbour and knew that the vacation had officially commenced when we quickly wandered across a little beach stand and bought our first Wadadli - the local Antiguan beer.

You know a country can't be all bad when you're allowed to cruise the beach beer in hand.

After getting a little sand on our feet, we hit the local Epicure market on the way back to the villa in order to stock up on a few essentials - like wine. As we wandered the aisles, we kept thinking Antigua is one very pricey country when it comes to groceries - everything was way more expensive than it was at home - even tropical fruit. I definitely thought we'd be taking it easy on the booze when I saw that Guado al Tasso was $193 and Tignanello was $253. I thought wine was expensive back home - with Tig going for $100 - but this was hefty with a capital "H." Luckily, I quickly found out that the prices shown were in EC$ and that the exchange for the Caribbean dollar is basically 3 to 1. Phew!

Not That Bad A View, I'd Say.
We returned just in time to find that our roomies were back at the villa and that they were prepping cocktails for the arrival of our other travel mates. Jeaux and Matinder were still entertaining their cruise pals but Lady Di and She Who Must Be Obeyed were joining us for the evening. Unfortunately, we had to start our evening with a toast to Tyrant and Panda Guy - our missing Dinner Club mates - because they had to cancel their reservation for the Dinner Club when a family medical emergency happened.

We promised to do our best to drink what would have been their share though. It was the least we could do.

After some Caribbean-styled B&T's, we all hiked down to the resort village for a late dinner.

1550. 2012 Montagnac Cinsault (Pays d'Oc IGP - France)

By now, I'd realized that we likely wouldn't be drinking a lot of big reds while in Antigua. The heat and humidity - not to mention the local cuisine - just cry out for chilled whites and rosés. So be it.

Our curried lobster and goat roti might have been more representative of a resort than the local roadside food stops and our Cinsault Rosé might have been more acclimatized to the Mediterranean than the Caribbean - but, for a first night in town, they suited me just fine.

By the time that first bottle was finished, all the travel was hitting me with a vengeance. Some island touring and our long-awaited Dinner Club were now only hours away; so, we succumbed to the pillows calling our names and we didn't wait around to see if the restaurant bar started jumping to the island beats and deejay. There was still plenty of time for that.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Antigua Bound

The scheme of taking our Dinner Club on the road materialized after many bottles of wine and a more modest road trip to Tyrant's new digs on Salt Spring Island a couple of years back. Since we'd managed a weekend jaunt across the water to Tyrant's, I threw out the idea of everyone traipsing down to Jeaux and Matinder's winter home in Antigua since they now spend four to five months of the year there now - thus causing a major hiatus in our dinner plans.

Well, it was finally time to catch our flight to the Caribbean and Elzee agreed to take us out to the airport. In return for her graciousness, we figured we could take her out for dinner first since we didn't have to be at the airport until about 9 pm. With a couple of options on the table, we ultimately chose Campagnolo Roma as Elzee hadn't been before.

With this essentially being the start of our vacation, I reckoned we might as well start it off with a bit of a bang. Angelo Gaja may be acknowledged as one of Italy's (if not the world's) greatest winemakers  and Boo and I may have strolled by the Gaja winery years ago (we didn't have an appointment to actually visit) but I've never had one of his wines.

Tonight seemed as good a time as any to start.

1549.  2005 Dagromis Barolo (Barolo DOCG - Piedmont - Italy)

Angelo Gaja is a fourth generation Piedmontese winemaker and he's grabbed huge scores for his wines. Indeed, in October 2011, Wine Spectator published a feature article about him and stated that "he has helped change the global image of Italian wine." As a result, Gaja has garnered prices upwards of $400 a bottle for his premium wines. (BTW, this isn't one of those "premium" wines. It was only $70 in the liquor store. We went BYO tonight.)

Since he started taking a larger role in the family business, Gaja has been an innovator in Piedmont. Examples of his handiwork involve the pioneering of single vineyard wines in the region and the introduction of French barriques (225-litre oak barrels) for aging his wines. He also raised eyebrows of contemporaries - and even his father - when he planted the region's first Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauv Blanc. Despite the introduction of international grape varieties, Gaja has continued to emphasize traditional grapes - particularly Nebbiolo.

Gaja's Barbaresco's may garner higher prices, but the winery still produces this Barolo, made, as required by appellation laws, from 100% Nebbiolo. This is a modern man's Barolo however. The wine is marketed as being approachable as a young wine and, it's true, the wine is aromatic and the fruit isn't overshadowed by tannins. In an attempt to make the wine more accessible without years of aging, it is initially vinified in stainless steel, then matured in barriques for 12 months and finished off for another 18 months in the bigger and more traditional oak botti.

We were quite surprised - and very pleasantly at that - by how easy drinking the wine was with our salumi, antipasti and pizza. I'm used to regularly scraping the tannins off my teeth after every sip of a Barolo but not tonight - and this bottle was still relatively young. Well, at least until we'd finished off the pizza and had a bit of wine left to finish off on its own, without food. It was as if we'd opened an entirely different bottle and the tannins jumped to the front and centre.

If there was ever evidence of how different a wine can be with and without food, this was it. We might not have been nearly as effusive had we finished off the bottle without food. Luckily, that wasn't the case and we had a superb start to the vacation.

And a plane to catch.

Here's to the good times to come.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Let's Do The Time Warp Again

♬  ♪♫  It's just a jump to left and then a step to the right.... ♬  ♪♫

I don't know whether this revisiting of past "mea culpa" posts should channel Frank-n-Furter or Dr. Who but I'm definitely going to have to do the Time Warp or do a little time travel and jump over a whole lot of bottles as I try to catch up. Currently, my last published post is talking New Year's Day and we're decidedly past that now. So, once again, I am - quite fairly - catching grief for the lack of currency in my writing.

Not that it was a new year's resolution or anything but I think I have to be realistic and embrace the fact that I'm not going to be catching up on my posts any time soon.

As such, I shall tuck away all those bottles that we've enjoyed over the last so many months and jump ahead to more current sips. That's going to leave approximately 45 bottles unchronicled for the time being. You may rest assured, however, that they've been carefully stored for posterity on the Tardis (or my equivalent thereof) and that future posting is still the goal. After all, there's not to be any cheating on this 2001 Bottles Odyssey. Hopefully, I'll just fill in more and more of the "gaps" as time progresses - because there truly were some interesting wines that are to be added to The List.

I suppose that - even at this late date - filling those gaps and catching up on the blog should be my real resolution for the "new year." I realize the time for new year's resolution is long past and that most resolutions have been long discarded by now but at least it sounds good that I want to make the effort. The proof will be in the writing.

In the meantime?

♬  ♪♫ ... with your hands on your hips, you bring your knees in tight... ♬  ♪♫

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Black Eyed Peas and Merlot - A Match Made in Heaven?

Boo may have lived North of the 49th Parallel for decades now but, deep down, he's still got some Southern blood flowing through his veins. For years now, it's been a tradition at our home - much like it was in his in his youth - to start the year with black eyed peas and corn bread.

There was a slight problem to 2014's start, however. Boo had to work New Year's Day and that meant that it was left to me to prepare the traditional vittles.

That's some heavy pressure. So, to be on the safe side, I figured I should open a big bottle of wine that might distract Boo's attention if my black eyed peas didn't quite meet expectations.

1511.  2007  Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot (Napa Valley - California)

Duckhorn is one of those brands that I've known about for many a year. It's just not one that's graced my glass much through those years - much to my dismay I found out as we quickly worked our way through this bottle.

Established in 1976, Duckhorn made an early decision to focus on the production of Merlot despite Napa's primary emphasis on Cab Sauv.  At the time, Merlot was primarily seen as a blending grape but co-founders Dan and Margaret Duckhorn thought that valley producers under appreciated Merlot as a varietal wine. The Duckhorns were big fans of wines from St. Emilion and Pomerol and, like the right bank wineries in Bordeaux, they stayed with an emphasis on Merlot. I'm a fan of their viewpoint.

The estate has seven vineyards throughout Napa and, when added to the fruit that the winery buys from independent growers in the Valley, the winery has an abundance of different flavour profiles to work with. Duckhorn produces a number of single vineyard Merlots but this Napa Valley Merlot is a blend of grapes from throughout the valley and is the winery's take on what the valley, as a whole, can do with the Merlot grape. The wine also sees some Cab Sauv (10%) and a touch of Petit Verdot (1%) added to emphasize the depth and structure of the wine.

We certainly see a lot of Merlot emanating from our home vineyards in the Okanagan Valley, but there's no doubt that this was big in comparison - and tasty a one at that. The winery touts "signature flavours of black cherry, plum and spice." I'll just let things rest with that.

Now, I'm far from regretting my choice in wine tonight, but it turns out that I never should have been worried about needing to distract Boo with the wine in the first place. Turns out I could have easily opened a bottle of Two Buck Chuck for dinner and survived any meal proclamations - because even I agreed that these were some damned fine peas.

Now, should the same scenario arise next year, re-creating my peas might be a bit of an issue since I don't know what I did that made them so tasty - but I'm going to take it as a great start to the new year. Fine Peas. Fine wine. Works for me. Here's hoping the rest of 2014 follows suit.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

One Delicious New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve this year was slated to be a simple stay-at-home affair. Boo had to work until 8pm and we figured he'd barely have enough energy for dinner - much less last until midnight for any celebratory treats. When the idea of joining up with Scott and Stephanie Jaeger and The Pear Tree surfaced, we decided to go for it. Why not get pampered by the gang at our favourite restaurant? Turned out that Elzee, Shelback and Chewbacca thought it was a damned fine idea as well - plus Elzee hoped that her cousin, Swiss Miss, could join in. Luckily Scott and Stephanie were able to stretch our reservation for two into six and the night was set.

The ladies came over for a cocktail as we waited for Boo to get home from work and I figured we might as well kick off the evening in the same manner as it would likely end - with bubbles.

1506.  N.V. Bisol - Crede Spumante Brut (Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG - Italy)

I must have been unconsciously saving this bottle for a special occasion because I wouldn't normally have a bottle of Prosecco lying around for a couple of years but I picked up this "rarity" (at least in our market) a couple of years back at the Vancouver International Wine Festival. Bisol was one of the participating wineries in 2012 and their Crede (named after the marine sandstone subsoil found in the nearby countryside) made the cut for bottles that I needed to slip into the "cellar" without Boo noticing.

The good news was that I'd identified a winner back at the Festival. The bad news was that Boo was delayed at work (New Year's Eve or not) and, by the time he'd made it home, we'd needed to head off to the restaurant without him and the Prosecco had long been polished off. Luckily, Boo was able to join us at The Pear Tree before they needed to start serving the fixed menu.

1507.  1999 Pol Roger Brut Extra Cuvée de Réserve (Champagne AOC - France)

Vintage Champagne doesn't often make it into my drinking glass but I'd been given this bottle as a gift and, again, I figured there are only so many special occasions on our calendar, so why not pop the cork with great friends during a gourmet dinner. Boo and I like to take advantage of BYO options when they're available but I figure we should only pull out some of the big guns if we're going to do so. I think vintage Champagne counts. I was aware of the Pol Roger name and brand but I don't recall ever having had a bottle before.

We toasted the evening with the classic biscuit-y wine with our first two courses for the evening: Roasted Celeriac Foam Soup and Cured Rainbow Trout.

1508.  2011 Belle Glos - Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley - Santa Barbara County - California)

We'd matched the Belle Glos Pinot with our next course of Duck Confit with Baby Pea Risotto. I've got a few favourite dishes - that I can never get enough of - coming out of Scott's kitchen and this combination is right up with the best of them. Every bite was sublime and the Pinot, while rich and expansive by local standards, was a marvellous accompaniment.

Scott could have delivered three servings of this dish and I'd have left wanting more. Here's hoping that the dish doesn't remain a one-off special for New Year's Eve.

1509.  2004 Chateau Kirwan Grand Cru Classé (Margaux AOC - Bordeaux - France)

Keeping up with our theme of top notch wines, we brought out the Kirwan - one of the fourteen wineries categorized as Troisième Crus or Third Growth in the historic Bordeaux Classification of 1855. With only five First Growth and fourteen Second Growth wineries "ahead" of them, I think it's fair to consider the Kirwan to be a little more than a standard Tuesday night wine. Pairing it with Roasted Ribeye, Braised Short Rib and Caramelized Scallops didn't hurt either.

The evening just flew by and we were barely into our cheese course before we needed to pull out the celebratory accoutrements for midnight. We'd somehow managed to polish off the Bordeaux and figured we'd need a little something bubbly to ring in the new year. You might have thought that we should pop the cork on a big gun come midnight but we figured that we were already well into our cups (and our wine budget) and that we might as well grab a simple bottle since we were likely beyond the nuances of fine Champagne.

1510.  N.V. Chandon Brut Classic (California)

Turned out that the restaurant served up a rather nice alternative to Champagne. Domaine Chandon is the California branch of iconic French producer Moët et Chandon and it's certainly fit the bill as a good value bubble to toast the new year.

Some Valrhona Chocolate infused with Earl Grey Tea wasn't the shabbiest of ways to kick in a new year either.

Somehow Boo's and my simple New Year's Eve at home had morphed into a wonderful evening of great friends, laughs and tasty bites. One heckuva fine way to finish off one year and to start another. I can only hope that the rest of 2014 is full of similar good times.

And I need to resolve to get me some more of that duck confit and pea risotto!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

One Blue Mountain Leads to Another

What the hey. Last week's celebratory wine with Sacred Drop and W2 was a Blue Mountain bubbly; so, why not open a Blue Mountain still wine tonight? After all, doesn't the phrase go "one good wine leads to another?"

1505.  2009 Blue Mountain Chardonnay (Okanagan Valley)

Not that there was really any doubt beforehand, but our choice turned out to be particularly pleasing. Being a bit of a Riesling man myself, I don't tend to gravitate to Chardonnay when picking white wines - particularly when they're oaked - but this one definitely hit the spot.

Blue Mountain offers both an estate Chardonnay and a Reserve (what is now the "old" striped label). From what I can tell, the primary differences between the two (other than that the Reserve picks the best barrels from the fermenting wine) is that the "entry level" Chardy only sees ageing in older oak barrels, sees less time in those barrels and sees less battonage (or stirring of the wine while it ages on its lees or spent yeast cells). As this is the estate bottling, I expected a more subdued oak presence and it was, indeed, nicely integrated - blending subtly with the acidity and tree fruit that still showed through.

I may have to forego a few Rieslings and see what other Chardonnays we have stored away. There may be a few more gems like this one.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Another Round of Turkey Wines

Christmas Day has arrived. So, as tradition dictates, it's off to my sister, Vixen's, home for present opening and dinner. Unfortunately, Boo had to work this year. So, that left me as the designated driver - and left me having to limit the number of wines I dove into. We still managed to go through a few given the length of the day.

1502.  N.V. Bodegas Escorihuela Gascón - 1884 Extra Brut (Argentina)

Not to play into vinous stereotypes, but we started things off with a little bubbly. I can't say that I'm aware of many Argentine sparklers in our market but I'd been waiting to try this since Boo and I splurged for dinner at the 1884 Francis Malman restaurant while we were in Mendoza a few years back. I'm not certain but I think we might have had a cocktail featuring the Brut while waiting for dinner then, but this is the first bottle that I'm adding to The List.

Ironically, while we dined at the 1884 restaurant - which is situated in the urban winery - we didn't actually visit the winery as part of our itinerary. As such, I don't really know all that much about the winery. I did see that the Extra Brut is made from 70% Chardonnay, with the remaining 30% being Pinot Noir. Knowing that the rest of my kin hardly embrace plenty o' bubbles, I thought the reasonably priced (around $20) bottle might be a nice what to introduce the nieces to sparkling wines. Even though, there was a touch of sweetness to the wine, I think we may need a little more time before the girls are ready to jump on the bubbly bandwagon. For the time being, that just leaves more for Vixen and me.

We're always fêted with a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings at Vixen's. She does the kitchen duties and I tend to the bar. As such, I thought I'd bring along a white and a red from the ubiquitous lists of classic wines for pairing with bird - a Gewürztraminer and a Pinot Noir. Little did I know - until I started thinking to myself that the Gew was sure un-Gew-like - that I'd grabbed a Riesling instead of a Gewürztraminer. Same winery, same box of wine - just a different varietal wine. The good news was that the Riesling was just as tasty.

1503.  2012 Synchromesh - Amelia Block Storm Haven Riesling (Okanagan Valley)

Synchromesh was perhaps my favourite discovery from last summer's Wine Bloggers Conference. I took part in an excursion with the Okanagan Falls Winery Association where we hiked one of the local mountains and, when we reached the apex of the group's climb, the association had set out what must have been one of the most scenic tastings ever. That's where I immediately fell for Synchromesh Riesling and I arranged for a visit after WBC13 had ended. This was one of the bottles that I picked up.

And I can't think of a better occasion to have opened the wine for. I know I'm certainly going to look forward to opening more Synchromesh wines as well.

1504.  2008 Salt Spring Pinot Noir (Gulf Islands)

Once again, knowing that I wasn't playing to a Pinot sort of crowd, I went with the Salt Spring Pinot - which is on the more reasonably priced end of the scale. Seeing as how this wine is made from fruit grown on Salt Spring Island, I fully expected it to lighter bodied and, indeed, it was but it also had some nice red fruit coming through. I rather enjoyed it with the turkey and stuffing but it was a harder sell to the rest of the table.

I can't say that I had much luck selling the virtues of wine to familial non-believers but I've come to accept that I just need to bring along beer and/or Scotch to this tribe. There are worse things in life than having to finish off the wine on your own.

Merry Merry.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Tasty Christmas Eve

So, it would appear that I'd have been fine if the other night's bottle hadn't been #1500. Tonight's bottle and occasion weren't too shabby either. Seeing as how it was Christmas Eve, I decided to open a treat even though Boo could only have a glass before he trundled off to work. My Dad was coming over and I knew he'd be good for a glass - and, even better, I knew he'd want to switch over to beer after that one glass. Thereby, leaving more of this baby for my baby and me.

1501.  2004 Betts & Scholl - The Chronique Grenache (Barossa Valley - Australia)

I haven't had a Betts & Scholl wine before but I recall picking up this bottle because I'd remembered seeing that one of the wine rags had announced that a Betts & Scholl Grenache was one of their choices for iconic Aussie wines.

Betts & Scholl is more of a virtual than a bricks and mortar winery. It is a collaboration between Richard Betts, a Master Sommelier who had set up shop at The Little Nell - an aspirational hotel in Aspen - and art collector Dennis Scholl. It's a virtual boutique wine in that these gents don't have actual vineyards or a winery that they call their own. Rather, they work in tandem with grower/producers. Given time, they were producing limited wines from Australia, California and the Rhône. It is also a collaboration that jumped off the page with its first release of a 2001 vintage Barossa Grenache. That first release was in 2004 and, that year, Betts & Scholl was named 'Best New Winery in the World" by Food & Wine magazine. Not a bad start.

Indeed, the wines being made stem from Betts' own starting point on wine. In an interview with internet wine phenom, GaryVaynerchuk, Betts corrected Vaynerchuk when the latter introduced him as a wine expert. Betts calls himself a wine "enthusiast" rather than an "expert." Betts also said that he and Scholl started out to make wines that they love and would want to drink, rather than simply chase points or make a Cab or whatever the most commercially viable grapes or wines would suggest.

Both Betts and Scholl loved to drink Grenache - extolling it as a bigger version of Pinot Noir - and with The Chronique, they partnered up with an Aussie grower and his old vines Grenache in the Barossa. Despite making their wine with big Barossa fruit, they looked to Châteauneuf for how to make their first Grenache. They wanted to be as non-interventionist as they could be and they looked to bring out the "soft, seductive, sexy" side of Grenache.

The Chronique was a "second riff" on Grenache and we definitely "riffed" on it. Not a wine to be found in the "cheap and cheerful" section of the wine shelf, but we coined it, "Aussie fruit at its best," while toasting the season with it. Unfortunately, there were only 375 cases of it made - which makes it a little surprising that we even found it in our market. Lucky find. I'd say.

It might have been a risky move but I didn't leave a glass behind for Santa - what with his needing to drive all night. I definitely would have been in his good books if I had though.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Landmark Addition - Portland's In the House

I don't know what to say. Here I am three-quarters of the way through this Wine Odyssey and that special way point snuck up on me completely.

I guess I hadn't been keeping track of the numbers as we opened the latest bottles and, lord knows, I'm not exactly up-to-date with my writing. As such, this landmark addition to The List came and went without my realizing it. Of course, I knew that I was approaching the number 1500 bottle but I hadn't prepared sufficiently to celebrate it with a rightful bang. There were neither planned fireworks nor special trips to the cellar. This bottle could easily have been Two Buck Chuck (except that I don't have any) or something equally cheap and cheerful.

Luckily, for me, that wasn't the case.

As fate would have it, one of my best blogging buddies, April from Sacred Drop Channel, was in town for a visit to Vancouver. April and I had played, thick as thieves, during the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference last Summer in Penticton. To the extent that, upon my return home, Boo asked who this Sacred Drop person was and why I'd been so familiar with her all weekend on Twitter. What can I say? Sometimes personalities just click and that was definitely the case with us.

April and her main squeeze, W2 (short for "WineWidower"), had decided to travel up from Portland for a short, anniversary celebration and they thankfully fit in some cocktails and dinner with Boo and me. Knowing that April was as enamoured with wine as I am, I popped the cork on one of my faves. As mentioned though, it was more coincidence than thoughtful planning.

1500.  2008 Blue Mountain Brut Rosé (Okanagan Valley)

Not only is the Blue Mountain Brut Rosé one of my favourite BC bubbles, it's proved to be a tough bottle to find over the years as well. At times, production has been so limited that you had to be on a special, "double-secret" winery list and you had to act right away if you ever expected to succeed in buying some. Since I hadn't quite graduated to that list until recently, if you ever got your hands on a bottle, it automatically became one of those special occasion treats. I've added one other vintage of the Brut Rosé to The List when a 2007 cork was popped back at #1028 - when we opened it for another special occasion: Christmas dinner.

I wrote a fairly comprehensive piece on Blue Mountain leading up to WBC13; so I won't write much about it at this time. The winery does, however, make its Brut Rosé using a traditional Champenoise method. The wine is also made from traditional Champagne grapes - 63% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay - except for a small portion of Pinot Gris that is added to complement the wine's complexity. With three years ageing on the lees (or exhausted yeast cells), it's no surprise that the wine has creaminess - with plenty of biscuit notes - on the palate. There's some definite red fruit that makes itself known as well - along with some hefty acidity.

You'll note that there's no actual wine in the glass for the accompanying photo. That's because I was so caught up in the conversation with April and W2 that I wasn't even thinking about a picture for the blog. The bottle was empty and we were ready to move along before it dawned on me to take a shot. Whatever was I thinking?

If I'd known this evening was going to play scene to my #1500 bottle, I probably would have ordered another eventful bottle while at dinner. As it was, we all went our separate ways - ordering flights by the glass at Salt Tasting Room. April had been tipped off to Salt and I agreed that it's a fine choice for light dinners and a neat introduction to the Vancouver dining scene. The assortment of tasting plates and wines saw the conversation and laughs carry on until it was well past my bedtime and well beyond the time any happy couple likely would have allotted for strangers to intrude upon their anniversary. As another indication of how caught up we were in the moment, again, none of us had thought about taking any pictures until we were almost out the door. Luckily, we managed to slip one shot in on a phone.

Some bloggers we are.

Despite the lack of preparation, however, #1500 turned out be the special event it deserved to be after all. Great Wine. Great Occasion. Landmark number. I think I may just need to be a little more prepared in the final wines leading up to #2001 though - and the way we've been drinking, that could happen a lot sooner than might be expected.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Non-Tyrannical Winter Solstice

I've lost count of the actual number but, for a hefty collection of years, Tyrant has hosted his "trademark" Winter Solstice celebration. This was definitely a party that you wanted to be invited to. Every December 21, you could count on meeting up with a whole phalanx of old friends for a grand blowout of wine and tidbits and making the best of the shortest day of the year. Tyrant wasn't going to be in town this year and had recently lavishly entertained everyone in the Fall and his and Panda Guy's wedding.

As such, we found ourselves free on the Saturday night before Christmas. Knowing that just wasn't going to cut it, Boo and I decided to have a handful of friends over to have a mini-Solstice celebration. We couldn't possibly match the hoopla that Tyrant has mastered over the years, but we could give it the old college try to embark on a little merrymaking of our own.

If I do say so myself, the collection of bevies was kinda decent. Boo made up a batch of his family's old eggnog recipe (which isn't much more than Bourbon, Rum, eggs, sugar and cream) and I hit some of the new, local breweries and distillers for some craft brews, Vodka and Gin.

That being said, this is a wine blog; so, naturally, there was a bit of wine being poured as well. And, whenever, that happens, I'm more than happy to add the bottles to The List.

Before                                         After

1495.  2011 McWilliam's Wines - J.J. McWilliam Shiraz Cabernet (South Eastern Australia)

1496.  2010 Bodega Norton - Barrel Select Malbec (Mendoza - Argentina)

The first two wines are the ones that Boo and I chose for a batch of mulled wine. I don't make mulled wine very often but, if you can't interest folks in some piping hot wine on a cold, winter's night, when will you ever? Admittedly, both of these bottles are entry level wines, but I've quite enjoyed both McWilliam's and Norton in the past. I think they over-deliver for the price and I figured that a blend of different grapes and the definite presence of big, dark fruit would only add to the flavour of the "glogg." (It wasn't really "glogg" but I just like the word.) It must have worked because we went through a couple of hefty pots.

1497.  2012 Domaine Houchart Côtes de Provence (AOC Côtes de Provence - France)

As a contrast to the mulled wine, I was intrigued that one of our friends brought along the Rosé. Most folks I know would be more likely to open a Rosé during the Summer Solstice - if they drink Rosé at all. Apparently, it wasn't the thought of warmer Mediterranean sunshine that resulted in the choice. Rather, our pink friends copped to the fact that they knew nothing about the wine and that they simply liked the bottle shape and the colour of the wine. I wasn't any help on the producer but I could definitely be persuaded to take in a little of Provence and the Mediterranean to sit back in the sun and enjoy life myself.

1498.  2010 Michael David - Petite Petit (Lodi - California)

Another interesting choice, by one of our guests was the 85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot that is Petite Petit. Once again, it was the label that prompted the purchase but I know more than a couple of folks that reach for this wine quite regularly. I picked up a bottle at the Vancouver International Wine Festival a couple of years back but we still haven't opened it. I figured it had a bit of time in the bottle.

I think I'm safe with keeping our '08 vintage a bit longer because, like the elephants adorning the label, this wine is big bodied and powerful. If the mulled wine wasn't enough to warm everyone up, this one might have been able to accomplish the feat - without being warmed up on the stove.

1499.  N.V. Cupcake Prosecco (D.O.C. Prosecco - Italy) 

The final bottle that I was involved with (there were plenty others that I just had to pass on - at least as far as the blog goes) was Cupcake's entry into the Prosecco market. Based in California, the folks at Cupcake travel the world looking for opportunities to make international wines for their portfolio as well. Italy has proven a fertile ground for Cupcake in that they now produce a Chianti, a Pinot Grigio, this Prosecco and a Moscato d'Asti.

Meant to be an easily approachable brand, Red and La Gondoliera brought the Cupcake along to entertain the crowd with Venetian spritzes. I'm a long time fan of Aperol and spritzes but the girls introduced a whole new twist. They added a nicely mild olive to the mix. I'd never seen that before - but this is a drink from the piazzas of Venice where La Gondoliera was born and bred. If anyone is going to say the drink is authentic, it's going to be her. I'll have to keep the idea in mind for the many spritzes I've yet to drink down the road.

Not only was the olive an interesting twist but I got to add yet another Prosecco to The List. Since Proseccos are non-vintage (at least in our market), I'm perpetually concerned that I'm going to run out of new ones to add. No this time though.

We might have been missing Tyrant this Solstice and our modest soirée couldn't match the grandeur of a Tyrannical affair, but we did toast him - and we did manage to gather a handful of his regular guests who also found themselves "lost" without their regular shindig. I think I'll let him keep the franchise however.